The 3.Infanterie-Division was formed in October 1934 in Frankfurt/Oder. It was originally known as Wehrgauleitung Frankfurt*. Shortly after the unit was established it was given the cover name Kommandant von Frankfurt**. The organic regimental units of this division were formed by the expansion of the 8.(Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment and 9.(Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment of the 3.Division of the Reichswehr.
With the formal announcement of the creation of the Wehrmacht (which had covertly been in place for over a year) on October 15th, 1935, the cover name Kommandant von Frankfurt was dropped and this unit became officially known as the 3.Infanterie-Division.
The 3.Infanterie-Division was mobilized on August 1st, 1939 for operations in Poland. When the attack on Poland was launched on September 1st, 1939, the 3.Infanterie-Division was a part of II.Armee-Korps under 4.Armee, HeeresgruppeNord. The 4.Armee was to attack into the Polish Corridor from the region of Pomerania in Germany in an attempt to link up with the 3.Armee in EastPrussia and to isolate the Polish coastal forces in the region of Danzig from the rest of the battle to the south. The 3.Infanterie-Division crossed into Poland in the van of the 4.Armee attack against the Polish Corridor. The region of its attack was known as the Tuchola Forest, an area defended only lightly by the Polish 9th Infantry Division and Pomorska Cavalry Brigade. It broke through the Polish defenses at Seenkette between Nandsburg and Mrotschen, and fought across the Brda (Braha) River west of Crone, where it pursued through the Tucheler Heide to the Vistula (Weichsel) River in the region of Topolino-Grabowko. The 3.Infanterie-Division then took part in pursuit combat over the Weichsel River in the direction of Modlin. It then took part in security operations against the Bzura Pocket between Woclawek and Wyscogrod, before fighting near Plock and advancing in the direction of Gostynin, ending its stint in Poland near Lowicz before being transferred to the Eifel region of Germany along the German-Luxembourg border.
When the attack on France and the Low Countries was launched in May 1940 the3.Infanterie-Division was under III.Armee-Korps, 12.Armee, Heeresgruppe A. It advanced through Luxembourg and Belgium to the Maas River at Nouzonvillewhere it fought across. It then secured the area between Ewergnicourtand Balham before advancing over the Aisne to Asfeld, moving further on to the Canal du Centre in the region Digoin-Chalons, soon after ending the campaign in security operations along the demarcation-line.
In October 1940 after the Campaign in France had ended, the 3.Infanterie-Division was moved back into Germany and reorganized into the 3.Infanterie-Division (mot).
* In 1934 the German armed forces were still known as the Reichswehr and the restrictions of the treaty of Versailles were technically still in place. These restrictions limited the number of German divisions to 7 but almost from the start in 1921, there were plans to expand that number. Shortly after the NSDAP came to power in 1933 the number of divisions was indeed expanded from 7 to 21. The Reichswehr divisions didn’t transition over during the reforming and expansion period, they were used instead to help provide a basis for the newly forming units. The commanders of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr also served as the head of a regional Wehrkreiskommando of the same number as the division, thus serving a dual role. During the transition period, the Reichswehr Wehrkreiskommandos were upgraded into Korp formations and the commanders were transferred to serve as their new commanding officers. Through this move, the staff of each of the Reichswehr divisional units was lost making it unwieldy to transfer entire divisions into the newly forming Wehrmacht. From here the first step in the expansion from 7 to 21 divisions was the formation of 3 Wehrgauleitung in each region previously controlled by the Reichswehr divisions, creating 21 Wehrgauleitungen (7×3=21). Each Wehrgauleitung was named according to the city it was housed in. The 21 Wehrgauleitungen were the true foundation for the first divisions of the Wehrmacht. The regimental units of the former 7 divisions were shifted about and used to form the organic units of the new divisions.
** The German armed forces expanded from 7 divisions to 21 in 1934. In an effort to hide the expansion for as long as possible, all new divisions were given cover names. The cover names given to each of the 21 new divisions corresponded to the title of the commander placed in charge of the unit in most cases. As there were an Infantry and Artillery commander in each of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr (known as Infanteriefüher I-VII and Artilleriefüher I-VII, depending on the number of the division in question) they took command of 14 of the newly formed divisions (2×7=14). When the various Infantry and Artillery commanders took command, their new division’s existence was hidden by the use of his previous title as the cover name for the unit. The remaining 7 new divisions not commanded by one of the previous Infantry or Artillery commanders were taken over by newly appointed commanders and given cover names such as Kommandant von Ulm, or Kommandant von Regensburg.
Oberst Curt Haase 4.04.34 – 3.07.36
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